Sunday, 24 October, 2021

Key Trump impeachment witness sues for reimbursement of legal fees

U.S ambassador to the European Union and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Provided by CNBC Gordon Sondland former U.S ambassador to the European Union and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Cary Erickson | 25 May, 2021, 19:51

"Ambassador Sondland continued to rely on Pompeo's individual promise, on behalf of himself and the Government, in seeking outside counsel and incurred almost $1.8 million in attorneys' fees and costs".

Sondland, a Portland hotel magnate appointed by Trump to serve as ambassador, became a key witness of the impeachment probe because of his firsthand knowledge of conversations with Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani and senior Ukrainian officials - as well as his punchy answers, affable demeanor and colorful language.

A US ambassador who offered damaging testimony about President Donald Trump during congressional hearings in 2019 that led to Trump's first impeachment is suing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the USA government to recover nearly $1.8 million in legal fees.

Sondland alleges in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, that Pompeo had committed to reimburse his legal expenses after he was subpoenaed by House Democrats to testify in an impeachment case that accused then-President Donald Trump of withholding military aid from Ukraine while demanding an investigation into political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Sondland was sacked days after Trump's acquittal "simply for telling the truth", according to the lawsuit.

He testified that there was an agreement that the Trump administration would release US military aid for Ukraine's newly elected government if it investigated then-candidate Joe Biden's alleged ties with Ukraine.

"For all his troubles, Ambassador Sondland learned that testifying truthfully and candidly before Congress as cameras roll was in fact a fireable offense in Pompeo's Department of State", the lawsuit said. Biden defeated Trump in last year's election.

"Was there a quid pro quo?" In February, 2020, the Senate acquitted him.

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It also says Sondland's legal fees are so high because the Trump administration wouldn't cooperate and held back acces to "materials essential to his preparation" for the testimony he delivered in front of the House Judiciary Committee in November 2019. "Yes", Sondland told lawmakers, using a Latin term meaning a favour for a favour.

The suit says Sondland's efforts to receive reimbursement were repeatedly thwarted, although it acknowledges at one point State offered to pay $86,040 toward the fees.

A spokesperson for Pompeo called the lawsuit "ludicrous". Trump later distanced himself from Sondland.

The suit alleges that Pompeo reneged on "a legally binding promise, both individually and on behalf of the Government", to reimburse Sondland for his legal fees relating to the 2019 impeachment investigation.

Pompeo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"After Pompeo learned what Ambassador Sondland's testimony was before Congress during the 2019 Impeachment Inquiry - words that were entirely candid and truthful (but uncomfortable to the Trump Administration) - Pompeo reneged on his promise" in a "wilful breach of the October 2019 agreement" to pay his costs, the lawsuit added.

A hotelier who landed his tony diplomatic post after paying a $1 million donation to Donald Trump's inaugural committee, Gordon Sondland had been perceived as an administration loyalist when the first impeachment just began to swirl.